Arsenal Player Focus – Manuel Almunia

The future is still uncertain for Arsenal’s No.1 goalkeeper Manuel Almunia ahead of the new campaign. The Gunners have been linked with moves for numerous keepers this summer, suggesting the Spaniard’s time in North London was drawing to close. However, no signing has been made yet and he remains at the club despite calls from pundits and fans to replace him.

It will come as a surprise to many that he is as not been sold yet, considering his manager Arsene Wenger openly criticised the shot stopper. Wenger stated earlier in the summer that he gets nervous during big matches, leading to mistakes that have cost his side dear in recent years. With that in mind it is hard to see him returning to action as a first team regular. Wenger has shown during pre-season friendlies the position of goalkeeper is up for grabs, with Lukasz Fabianski, Vito Mannone and Wojciech Szczesny all appearing in goal, as well as Almunia.

Almunia has made over 100 appearances for the Gunners since his move from Celta Vigo in 2004. His highs include appearing in the 2006 Champions League final and the 2007 League Cup final, although he ended up on the losing side in both games. He replaced Jens Lehmann as the number one keeper in 2007 after the German made a couple of early season fumbles, which cost him is place in the Arsenal team. Three years on and it looks as if Almunia will suffer the same treatment. Fabianski believes he is the man to replace the Spaniard, if no new signing arrives at the Emirates Stadium by September 1. The away game against Liverpool will be our clearest indication yet to see where Almunia’s position at the club is. Osasuna, one of his former clubs, have shown an interest in signing him.

Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer and Manchester City’s Joe Hart are among those who have been touted as possible replacements. It is widely accepted by pundits that if Arsenal are to end their five-year trophy drought, they need to sign a world-class goalkeeper. Too many clumsy mistakes and fumbles have cost Arsenal points and goals conceded. One notable mistake by Almunia last season was his failure to stop a simple shot by Kevin Phillips against Birmingham City, which cost the Gunners two points in their chase of the league title. These problems are rarely seen at Chelsea and Manchester United but are too often an event for the North London outfit. Despite his tendencies to produce howlers, he has a good reputation of saving penalties, including crucial saves against Hull City and West Ham last season. The transfer window is only open until the end of the month and any move for a new keeper could depend on City’s selection on Saturday. Both Joe Hart and Shay Given want first team football and if one of them submits a transfer request in the next week it could spark a merry-go-round of keepers

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